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USA: New Hampshire: Castle in the Clouds, Kancamagus Highway, Lakes Region, Mount Washington, The Flume Gorge
The Flume Gorge, New Hampshire, USA: Geological wonder
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The Flume Gorge is a natural gorge extending 800 feet horizontally at the base of Mount Liberty in Franconia Notch State Park. Cut by the Flume Brook, the gorge features walls of Conway granite that rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are 12 to 20 feet apart. Discovered in 1808 by 93-year-old "Aunt" Jess Guernsey, the Flume is now a paid attraction that allows visitors to walk through the gorge.
I was on a fall foliage trip in the New England States of USA. After breakfast at Lake Opechee Inn and Spa, Laconia, I began my drive to arrive at Flume Gorge Visitor Centre in Lincoln at around 10AM.
Nearly 200 million years ago in Jurassic times, the Conway granite that forms the walls of the Flume was deeply buried molten rock. As it cooled, the granite was broken by closely spaced vertical fractures which lay nearly parallel in a northeasterly direction. Sometime after the fractures were formed, small dikes of basalt were forced up along the fractures. The basalt came from deep within the earth as a fluid material, and because of pressure, was able to force the Conway granite aside. The basalt crystallized quickly against the relatively cold granite. Because of this quick cooling, the basalt is a fine- grained rock. Had this material ever reached the surface, it would have become lava flows.
Erosion gradually lowered the earth's surface and exposed the dikes. As the overlying rock was worn away, pressure was relieved and horizontal cracks developed, allowing water to get into the rock layers. The basalt dikes eroded faster than the surrounding Conway granite, creating a deepening valley where the gorge is now.
The gorge was covered by glaciers during the Ice Age, but the ice sheet did not greatly change the surface. It partially filled the valley with glacial debris and removed soil and weathered rock from the vicinity. After the Ice Age, Flume Brook began to flow through the valley again. Erosion is still occurring.
A trip into the Flume begins and ends at the Flume Visitor's Center. Guests can choose to walk through just the Gorge or do a two mile loop. The walk includes uphill walking and lots of stairs. The boardwalk allows you to look closely at the growth of flowers, ferns and mosses. Since I was on a schedule, I opted to take The Flumes complimentary shuttle bus up to the Boulder Cabin and then do the boardwalk. I was there for just over an hour. The walk gave me the opportunity to view the Covered Bridge, Table Rock and the Avalanche Falls.
This picturesque covered bridge is one of the oldest in the state. It was built in the 1886 and has been restored several times. Such bridges were often called “kissing bridges” because of the darkness and privacy they provided. This bridge was built across the scenic Pemigewasset River. Pemigewasset means “swift or rapid current” in the Abenaki Indian language.
Over time, the rushing waters of the Flume Brook exposed this large outcropping of rock. Table Rock is a section of Conway granite that is 500 feet long and 75 feet wide. As the rocks are slippery, it's a good idea to stay on the trail.
At the top of the Flume is a close view of Avalanche Falls. The 45-foot waterfall creates a roaring sound as the Flume Brook enters the gorge. The falls were formed during the great storm of 1883, which washed away the hanging boulder.
I returned to the parking lot at around 11:30. Time to move in the direction of White Mountains – the cog railway was calling!
The Flume Gorge Image Gallery Photo viewer
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